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Self-Determination and Self-Advocacy: Shifting the Power

by Rebekah L. Pennell, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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In order to understand the meaning of words such as self-determination and self-advocacy, we must first understand their history. For many years, people with disabilities lived in the shadow of others. They were abused, mistreated, and virtually ignored. In the past century and a half, services for people with developmental disabilities have gone through many phases of good-faith effort, each with notable intentions. Beginning around 1848, we developed special schools and training programs based on the belief that we could teach people with disabilities better if they were separated from the "normal" population. Those schools were set up outside of our local communities and became known as institutions.


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